The cash market saw mixed pricing for the third straight day Friday. Call it a tie.
Following the dominance of softness Wednesday and firmness Thursday, small increases and decreases were fairly evenly divided Friday. Most of the market was close to flat as few points strayed from unchanged (no matter which direction) by more than a dime. Outside of Westcoast Station 2’s loss of more than C35 cents, the next largest declines were around 15 cents. Gains ran as high as about a dime.
It appeared that weekend heating load and support from the previous day’s screen rise of 12.4 cents were balanced pretty well against the use of storage supplanting purchases of new production and the industrial demand slump that typically accompanies a weekend trading period, one source said.
Little change in weather patterns was due over the weekend. The West would remain stormy for the most part with heavy snowfalls, particularly in the mountainous elevations. The Northeast and Midwest were expected to stay frigid with overnight lows below freezing. A respite from the cold is likely by the middle of this week in the Midwest, according to The Weather Channel (TWC), but the Northeast will continue to feel the cold snap through the end of the week and possibly beyond.
The primary new weather development was a weekend cooling trend in the heretofore mild South, TWC said. The only parts of the region that would remain warm would be South Texas, coastal sections of Gulf Coast states and the Florida peninsula, it added.
A much-needed addition to Gulf Coast processing capacity had been expected Thursday as the Amerada Hess-operated Sea Robin Processing Plant was scheduled to begin ramping up operations that had been shut down since the passage of Hurricane Rita last September. However, Sea Robin Pipeline said early Friday afternoon the plant “has postponed the processing operations begin time.” A pipeline spokesman confirmed that the plant remained nonoperational Friday. Attempts to contact Hess about the delay in resumption of processing were unsuccessful.
The scheduled start Saturday of Westcoast capacity constraints by the White Rock Project (see Transportation Notes) had negative price implications upstream and positive ones downstream. Westcoast Station 2 recorded Friday’s biggest loss by far, while Sumas had the only significant gain of about a dime in the Rockies/Pacific Northwest/San Juan Basin market.
In his Friday advisory, Citigroup analyst Kyle Cooper noted that after being “whipsawed” with his storage report estimations in the previous two weeks, he found it refreshing that the most recent report was only 1 Bcf off his projected midpoint. Various models could be used to construe last Thursday’s report as either slightly bullish or bearish, he said. “However, when inventories are considered, with current levels over 450 Bcf higher than last year, the supply/demand balance must tighten up significantly to alleviate a looming storage crisis. If the temperature-adjusted supply/demand balance is roughly equal to last year, then a repeat of last year’s very bullish weather patterns would result in nearly the same injection. Over 2 Tcf of gas was injected last year. There is not room to inject 2 Tcf into storage this year. Something must change; supply must be reduced or demand increased.”
A Gulf Coast producer interpreted the screen’s 21.4-cent drop Friday as mainly compensating for Thursday’s gain, saying it made no sense for April futures to move higher after what she considered a bearish storage report Thursday morning. “It had better be a hot summer,” or the year-on-year storage surplus will crush prices then, she said.
The producer reported being told recently by a customer that the nearly concluded mild winter was much like one in the early 1990s. His central U.S. metropolitan area consumed about 1.5 Bcf less gas during the 2005-06 winter than in the previous warm winter, the customer said, even though both seasons had a similar number of heating degree days. He attributed it to a lot more energy efficiency measures in use by industry now “and people being much more cognizant of their thermostat settings.”
It seems like the industry is reaching the saturation point with new pipeline projects, the producer continued. Her major complaint was that “everything’s going west to east; I haven’t seen anything going north.”
Although some may consider winter a closed book by now, Weather 2000 expects March to conclude about as wintry as the month ever gets — and that can be pretty wintry, going by past history. Remaining stores of Canadian polar air will be delivered into the continental U.S. over the next four weeks, the consulting firm said. “And where the air masses clash, the results will vary by latitude: Severe thunderstorms to the South, hefty snows to the North. Strong sustained winds supporting wildfires to the South and enhancing windchills to the North.”
Weather 2000 said people should remember that prior to this February’s blizzard, the second and fifth largest snowstorms in New York City history (dating back to 1869) occurred in March, and the month also produced the greatest blizzard of all time in the eastern U.S. “With prevailing and anticipated blocked-flow patterns, and some computer models having a tendency to ‘prematurely push storms offshore,’ our research concludes that the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast states could be ‘surprised’ and faced with a significant winter snowstorm(s) prior to April 1.”
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